Sports in The Dominion Post

This article appeared in the Dominion Post Newspaper on December 10, 2002.
Peak inside tryouts, see no mystery


As quickly as your living room light goes out when you hit the switch, our attention goes from high school football to basketball.

It's thinking about the upcoming boys' season that reminds me of a story, one to which just about everyone can relate.

Think about this for a second, you go to the game, maybe even more than one. You see the kids on the team, watch them play ... and then it happens:

What in the blue blazes is so-and-so doing on this team?

Turns out the kid has a father that is mayor of the town or is the governor, or something like that.

The kid is only on the team only because daddy is a known and powerful guy. Better yet, he bought his way on the team, right?

There was a young man, back in the early 1990s, who was on the basketball team at my high school.

It just so happened that his father was also the school's principal.

Now, before anyone could say "double technical," the young man was accused by fellow classmates and whoever else that bothered to care as being on the team by name only.

What nobody bothers to remember now is the kid turned out to be a pretty good basketball player, although I can still whip him in a game of one-on-one.

So, it's with this that I ventured out to Morgantown High a couple of weeks ago.

The mission, to get a first-hand look at basketball tryouts to indeed find this unjust favoritism and unveil it to the world.

The cast of 15 or so characters looking to make the team ranged from tall and confident to nervously nervous and somewhere in between. On this day, they all sat in the school cafeteria before tryouts began.

MHS coach Tom Yester wasted little time in handing out a hard dose of reality.

"We have four or five kids on the football team that are going to take up some spots," Yester said. "I don't see too many guys here that are going to beat out Geremy Rodamer. If there is, believe me, that would make me happy. Seth Fogarty? Forget about it, you're not going to beat him out."

Many of the kids sitting at the tables had participated in the team's offseason work-out program. Many lifted weights, most played in the summer or fall basketball leagues.

It guaranteed them nothing.

"If you can't play basketball," Yester said, "being strong is not going to help you."

Tryouts began with ball handling skills, as the players lined up along the sideline of the floor. Yester, along with assistant Jeff Hoffman stood on either side of the floor watching as players dribbled down and back, around their backs, between their legs and just about every which way known to man.

Right away, it was easy to tell that some kids were better than others and honestly, some were cut in the first five minutes of the tryout.

Before any cuts are made, the MHS coaches fill out an evaluation sheet. On this sheet are spaces for ball handling, shooting and defense. There is also a space for academics and social standing.

"We want good players, but we also want good kids," Hoffman explains. "If a kid has been caught smoking or has been in trouble, we grade him very low in the social part."

Just like if a kid can't make a free throw, he gets graded low in that part.

"In the end, all the points are added up and that's how we pick our team," Hoffman said.

Unfortunately, the mission failed miserably, when there was no secret space found on the sheet marked "What father does for a living."